Photo: Ever-changing: the start of another new and different day.
Isle of Iona, Scotland
It’s been three weeks to the day since setting foot on Scottish soil. The daily rhythm of life and work has gradually fallen into measured steps. The passing of time is marked by the toll of the abbey bell and the appearance of budding flowers and trees as Spring advances. I also realise that since arriving on the island, I have only travelled by foot.
Photos: 1. Daffodils in the early morning light 2. The budding Horse Chesnut trees erupting into life
In the early morning light, walking from my house in the village to the abbey, it is often only the sounds of the sea lapping on the shore, the sweet twitter of birdsong (yes, the real life original type of twitter) and lambs bleating that pierce the stillness.
Sometimes, as my footfall wakes a flock of wild geese, there is also the gentle beating of multiple wings during a hasty take-off.
I love this time of day and often pause to watch the colours of the new day, the light, the sky and clouds; and every time, gratitude wells up and I think somewhat incredulously: “Here I am – living out daily my own, my very own, abbey experience!”
In the afternoon, I will be crossing over to the neighbouring Isle of Mull and travelling the length of the island, to stay the night in Tobermory, as I have a half-day and a full-day off that coincide.
It’s like I am putting my nun-thing on hold because I will be visiting the hairdresser, the whisky distillery and having lunch at the posh Western Isles Hotel. Excitement is rising along with that bright morning sun.
Photo: On the bus: the snow-dusted hills of Mull
Craignure, Isle of Mull, Scotland
I board the 495 bus at Craignure for the third leg of the journey. I squeeze past a lady in a wheel chair and another with the most enormous shopping buggy I have ever seen. The bus is almost full and is alive with spirited chatter. There is such a comfortable familiarity, as most people board and greet the bus driver, and each other by name.
“Alistair, with all this shopping, will you be kind enough to drop me around the corner at home please”. “Ali, would you mind dropping me by the cash machine after you finish the run please”. “Alistair, I’ve left my card at home, could I fix you up in the morning?”
Listening in to several conversations, I am touched by the warm companionship of lives bound, and lived long together.
“Ooooh, Karen – did you hear the news about Moira MacDonald? I was sworn to secrecy until after 2.30 yesterday afternoon. She and Donald were married after 25 years of livin’ together. They were heading away last night with Calum and Shona. Aye, there’s hope for us all, she being 73 years old and all.”
“I did hear the news from Moira herself and she also swore me to secrecy”! This is followed by much mirth and humorous banter as others confessed to also being in on the “secret”. This sets Kirsty Featherstone (I quickly get to know all their names) off into a coughing fit.
A packet of Soothers is passed from the back of the bus. As she gratefully opens the packet she cranes to see who was responsible: “Ah, Mary Anderson, I didn’t see you hiding down there. Thank you very much. I have had this viral cough for two weeks now and just can’t shift it.”
It’s hard to keep up with all the chat but before long there is a mass-handbag rummaging effort to find an up-to-date timetable and map to help a visiting backpacker, along with a cascade of tips and suggestions for suitable walking tracks.
Then the solemn news of the vandalised window of Gilbert MacIndoe’s new ice-cream van, “not three days on the island. Aye, what is the world coming to”!
Before long I am brought into the fold and am given Kirsty Featherstone’s contact details with an invitation to join the locals, young and old, for dinner at Macgochan’s Pub Tobermory: “any Friday night. Phone me first, and just come along, we’ll all be having a great time together”.